Is 2005 the year of the Kwame?

Originally Published: May 6, 2004
By Chad Ford | NBA Insider
Will the real Kwame Brown please stand up?

After three years of watching and hand wringing, the Wizards would like to know who the kid they drafted with the No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft really is.

Is he the Kwame Brown who dropped 30 and 19 on the Kings' Chris Webber? The Kwame who scored 25 points and grabbed nine boards against the Pacers' Jermaine O'Neal. That's the Brown the Wizards thought they were getting when Brown told Michael Jordan that he never would regret taking him.

Or maybe Kwame is the kid who had zero points and three boards against the Jazz in 29 minutes of play. Or perhaps he's the kid who managed just three points and three boards against the Suns. If that's the Kwame the Wizards are stuck with .. things are going to get ugly.

The problem in Washington -- and it's a big one -- is that the Wizards, three years into Brown's career, still aren't sure who their cornerstone really is. The Bulls, who drafted two high school kids in 2001, are going through the same growing pains.

How long do you wait before you give up? How much patience can a struggling franchise have? If Grunfeld trades Brown now, and he turns into Jermaine O'Neal next year . . . he loses his job. If he hangs onto Brown for another two years, only to find out that he's fool's gold . . . he loses his job.

Ah, the joys of being in charge of young, teenage millionaires.

All of the pressure, ideally, shouldn't be on Kwame's shoulders, but it is. The Wizards have a stocked backcourt filled with scorers and defenders. It's the frontcourt that keeps coming up short. The Wizards need to improve it, but nothing they can do this summer will help as much as getting Brown to play up to his billing on a consistent basis.

There are no free agents out there with his upside. No one in the draft ready to come in and do what he's capable of doing. The mantle of the Wizards once rested firmly on Michael Jordan's back. Now it's on Kwame's. There's no escaping it now. If he fails, the Wizards do too. If he develops, the Wizards will be a force to be reckoned with.

Can the Wizards' front office do anything to determine his path? Here's a look at what to expect as Insider continues its summer blueprint series.

Chad Ford

ESPN Senior Writer